Scarlett teachers and UM instructors teamed together this winter to support Scarlett’s English Language Learners (ELLs) in developing their English language and writing proficiencies. This partnership project focused on Word Generation (http://wg.serpmedia.org/), a vocabulary program used across all content and grade levels for all Scarlett students. Each week during the regular school day, teachers introduce students to 5 commonly used academic terms. Students work with these words throughout the week with a culminating writing activity each Friday. As newcomers to English, it is not surprising that some ELL students struggle with the writing component of Word Generation. Scarlett teachers and UM instructors purposefully developed an extended day project with the goal of supporting students in drafting their written essays before they would actually be due in their language arts classes.
Scarlett teachers (Candy Justyna, Laura Ozuna, Rosetta Ransome-Brown, and Kara Schultz) and UM instructors ( Debi Khasnabis and Cathy Reischl) collaborated to select three units from Word Generation that focused on issues of culture and identity and were likely to be ones that ELLs would want to discuss in their mainstream classrooms. For example, one unit focused on the following question: should students be academically tracked? Selecting units that the students would not encounter in their mainstream classrooms for a few weeks enabled the teachers to pre-teach the content, thus building students’ proficiency and their ability to be successful with the writing assignments.
The teachers and UM instructors met with students twice a week for two months with approximately four days spent on each unit. On day one of each unit, students viewed and discussed a video related to the question and the key vocabulary terms. The teachers then led the students in an extended discussion of the pro- and con- positions related to the question. A required component of Word Generation is completing a graphic organizer prior to writing an essay related to the question, and students received support in completing this task. Finally, the teachers assisted students in translating the information in the graphic organizers into an essay format. Although most students did not initially complete the full essay during the extended day program, by the end of the two month project, many students were able to complete a full draft.
Scarlett’s ELLs will have additional opportunities to enhance their learning this summer during the extended year program, which will run for three weeks in July.